Is an Adjunct Revolt Enough?

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 6.26.05 PMA friend from graduate school (and a tenure track professor) just shared this article with me from The Atlantic and I suggest everyone read it. It seems that adjunct college professors are fed up with their current (slave) status…and they are organizing. While I agree with much of what they are saying – I fear that forming unions for better pay and benefits might get them a few dollars and a parking space – but it will not solve the longer term problem: the corporatiztion of higher education. The article hints at this fundamental issue without really hammering it home as a systemic flaw. I call for a more radical solution: a university-wide adjunct walk out and a public and very vocal denunciation of the system.  Adjuncts who continue to take crap jobs and then complain about them are just as guilty as the universities. Reform is not enough. Adjuncts should quit and thus leave universities with no faculty. Only then will those in charge have to make some changes. What are your thoughts?

With compliments,

Keith (fight the power)

2 thoughts on “Is an Adjunct Revolt Enough?”

  1. Keith,

    Some interesting points here. However, let me play a bit of Devil’s advocate here. I think your assertion that “Adjuncts who continue to take crap jobs and then complain about them are just as guilty as the universities” walks a bit too close to the victim-blaming line. I’ll give you an example: I adjunct at both a large state university and a large private university here on Long Island. When the national adjunct walk-out day was scheduled this past spring, I received a not-too-subtle email from both universities reminding us that anyone who participated in such an action would be in violation of their contract and fired (if the wording wasn’t so exact, the meaning was clear as day). While I agree in theory with what you suggest, it isn’t always possible in reality. I certainly couldn’t have lost my job then, or willingly quite now (as meagre as my pay is) with a family to support, bills to pay, etc. Does that make me part of the problem, as you seem to suggest? Perhaps. But it also reflects that I–and lots of other adjuncts–are caught between a very large rock (having to pay our bills and put food on the table) and a hard place (knowing that as crappy as things are, we don’t have many other options).

    1. Thanks for the comment, Chris – and I think you have made a fair point. I understand that many are indeed stuck with certain realities and seemingly have little choice in the matter. But there are always other options when it comes to making money…perhaps not in academia I know but there are choices. I use strong language to make a point. I’m not really blaming the victim so much as suggesting that by taking these jobs we (I was once an adjunct myself) are complicit in the system that serves to marginalize us. It saddens me when I see people standing in line and jumping through hoops to get slave wage jobs. And who wins..? We certainly do not. I empathize with you, brother. I really do. But when universities threaten termination in response to a walk out DAY then – well you might guess how I would respond. If – and this is a big if I will admit – all adjuncts banned together and stopped teaching they would have to listen. Then they would be the ones with no other choice.
      Again – I feel your pain and I thank you for your thoughtful response. I think that we as educators are facing a long uphill battle here. And it’s going to get pretty rough before it gets better. God speed.

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